One of the things I hated most when I first moved to Charlotte was the feeling of designated nature. Growing up in the shadow of the Appalachian Mountains, I hated not having easy access to open trails. I wish this list of 22 hiking trails within an hour and a half of the city had existed during my move, but I’m happy to share it with you now.
Cooler temps, lower humidity and fall color starting to peek through the green makes this the perfect time to explore state parks, national forests and greenways around Charlotte.
Uwharrie National Forest, 1.5 hours from Uptown
The Uwharrie National Forest is made up of 51,000 acres across Montgomery, Randolph and Davidson counties. The forest can be reached by driving about an hour up Highway 49 away from the University area. While there are more than 33 day hiking trails inside the forest, we’ve chosen those closest to the Charlotte city limits.
Badin Lake Recreation Area Trails
There are 25 trails in the Badin Lake Recreation Area alone. We recommend parking at Arrowhead, Badin Lake or Badin Group Camp campgrounds and hitting trails like the Badin Lake Hiking Trail short loop off those parking areas.
Birkhead Mountains Wilderness Trails
Approximately 5,160 acres inside the Uwharrie National Forest are designated as a true wilderness. Containing the oldest mountains in North America, remnants of an old plantation and evidence of early American Indians and settlers can be found along the trails. While it may be tempting to take a souvenir, federal law demands these items be left undisturbed.
Visit the Uwharrie National Forest
Highway 109 N., Troy, N.C.
Fiver (aka Boys aka Love Dogs aka Milk Bone Boys aka Ryan Reynolds Boys, because @animatedfighter is a weirdo and has an aka for everything). 👨🏻 ~ #happydog#dogs#nature#birkheadmountain#birkheadmountainswilderness#nc#spring#happytrails#beautifulday#mansbestfriend#protection#wheat#bluesky#hiking#funinthesun#goodbyewinter#ryanreynolds#lovedogs#boys#ginger#milkbone#weirdo#animalrights#basenji#dogsofinstagram
Kings Mountain, 45 minutes from Uptown
Kings Mountain has both a South Carolina State Park and a National Military Park. While the trails below are part of the military park, the state park offers a living farm, fishing, boating and special events. It’s important to note that you should register at the visitor center before hitting these backcountry hiking trails.
Park Loop Trail Plan to spend a full day tackling this 16-mile loop through both the national military and state park.
Browns Mountain Trail Start at the visitor center and hike two and a half miles up to Browns Mountain. This trail is not a loop, so keep in mind that it’s a total hike of five miles.
Clarks Creek Trail This six mile out-and-back trail departs from the visitor center and heads out to Lake Crawford.
Visit Kings Mountain
1277 Park. Rd., Blacksburg, S.C.
Crowders Mountain State Park, 40 minutes from Uptown
While most of us have seen the view from Kings Pinnacle on Instagram, there are actually 11 trails for hikers to enjoy, ranging from easy to strenuous.
Lake Trail (easy) Start at the Sparrow Springs access area for an easy walk around the lake. At just under a mile, this hike is perfect for families with small children.
Ridgeline Trail (moderate) If you’ve made it up to the summit of King’s Pinnacle, push yourself even harder by following the Ridgeline Trail six miles into South Carolina and Kings Mountain State Park.
Rocktop Trail (strenuous) Serious hikers can access the Rocktop Trail via Crowders Trail near the visitor center) and test their limits crossing several rock ledges.
Visit Crowders Mountain
522 Park Office Ln., Kings Mountain, N.C.
Stone Mountain State Park, 1.5 hours from Uptown
With a nine trail network visiting waterfalls, trout streams and dramatic overlooks, it’s worth the car time.
Over the past two days we hiked 2 mountains, 17+ miles, and got about 4 hours of sleep. But we also got a crap ton of uninterrupted family time, and discovered Claire loves the outdoors as much as mom and dad do! My trail fever has not been satisfied. I hope it never is 🏔 #stonemountain #pilotmountain #ncstateparks #gooutside #trailjunkies #trailmedicine
Middle Falls/Lower Falls Trail (moderate) Do go chasing waterfalls with this short half-mile hike along Big Sandy Creek to Middle Falls and Lower Falls.
Stone Mountain Loop Trail (strenuous) Take this four and a half mile trail all the way to the summit of Stone Mountain.
Visit Stone Mountain
3042 Frank Parkway, Roaring Gap, N.C.
Lake Norman State Park, 50 minutes from Uptown
We all know about the sandbar, but did you know there are three hiking trails circling the lake?
Alder Trail (easy) Pack a picnic and hit this loop that comes in at just under a mile. Crossing the picnic area, you can also hop along Norwood and Hicks creeks before passing the edge of Lake Norman.
Itusi Trail: Hawk Loop (moderate) This three-mile loop is used by mountain bikers, so be alert.
Lake Shore Trail (moderate) Spend a full day at the lake with a 10 mile hike out-and-back along the lakeshore.
Visit Lake Norman State Park
759 State Park Rd., Troutman, N.C.
U.S. National Whitewater Center, 25 minutes from Uptown
The USNWC has more than 20 miles of trails waiting to be explored with your pet (if it’s on a leash).
Lake Loop (easy) This one’s pretty straightforward – hike three miles around the lake.
North Main (moderate) This three-mile hike is behind the rafting course and varies between tight lines in the trees and a stroll along the lake.
Figure 8 (strenuous) I’m not quite sure why this mile is called the Figure 8, because it doesn’t look much like a figure eight.
Visit the Whitewater Center
5000 Whitewater Center Parkway, Charlotte, N.C.
Mecklenburg County Greenway System
37 miles of developed greenways along the Carolina Thread Trail and 150 miles still waiting to be developed.
Clark’s Creek and Mallard Creek, 20 minutes from Uptown. Located in the University area, Clark’s Creek Greenway runs across Mallard Creek flood plains as well. With a mix of gravel and asphalt surfaces, visitors can walk, jog and bike.
Irwin Creek and Stewart Creek, 5 minutes from Uptown. This greenway runs below I-77 and through two parks and Ray’s Splash Planet.
McDowell Creek, 25 minutes from Uptown. For our friends up in Huntersville, this greenway runs parallel with I-77 between the interstate and Lake Norman.
Southeast Creek, 30 minutes from Uptown. Next time you grab dinner at Kindred, work it off an Southeast Greenway in Davidson.
Torrence Creek, 20 minutes from Uptown. Running through residential neighborhoods in Huntersville, this path is perfect for families in the area needing to stretch their legs.